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Tsawwassen First Nation members vote against proposed LNG facility

A family on Tsawwassen's Centenial Beach. (Wikimedia Commons).

DELTA, Canada — Environmental concerns appear to have dashed plans for a liquefied-natural-gas project on the land of a pro-development First Nation near Vancouver, says the chief.

Of the 139 members of the Tsawwassen First Nation who voted Wednesday, 53 per cent opposed plans that would have seen three- to five-million tonnes of LNG processed annually on the First Nations' territory.

Chief Bryce Williams encouraged members last month to support the plans, saying potential benefits outweighed the limited drawbacks.

Williams said Thursday members were concerned about the environmental impacts of the project and natural-gas extraction and he was proud of how they handled the consultation process.

"Throughout the whole process, I was somewhat on the fence and leaving the decision up to the members," he said.

"I think that was the best choice and the best approach to take. And of course they have spoken, and I support any decision they have made."

Had the band approved the plans, the export facility would have opened as early as 2022, receiving five to six tankers every month.

The project would have brought money to the community, but it wouldn't have offered as many jobs as projects such as a warehouse, said Tom McCarthy, chief administrative officer of the Tsawwassen First Nation Economic Development Corporation.

"With all the opportunities that are provided to us, there are gives and takes and pros and cons," he said.

"And the ability to move forward with logistics-based activity is something that will benefit the members and future generations, really, just as well as LNG would have.

The Tsawwassen vote is a likely setback for Premier Christy Clark's billion-dollar plans to grow the province's LNG industry.

Clark said in November that she hoped the First Nation's members would approve the proposal, adding LNG is still in demand around the world, especially in Asia.

What happens now to the 72 hectares of industrial land upon which the facility would have been built remains unclear. Members voted Wednesday to allow the First Nation's executive council to negotiate leases of up to 60 years.

However, construction is underway on two projects nearby. When they open early next year, Tsawwassen Mills and Tsawwassen Commons will be two of the largest shopping centres in the province.

Plans are also underway for a residential community.

"When this community is ultimately developed, probably in the next 10 to 15 years, it will truly represent a master-planned community where you can live, work, shop and recreate all within walking distance from your home," said Chris Hartman, CEO of the Tsawwassen First Nation Economic Development Corporation.

-- by Gemma Karstens-Smith in Vancouver.
--Story updated at 18:58 ET on Dec. 17.
The Canadian Press

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